Thursday, August 23, 2012

My 2 Cents: Changing the Debate

If you logged into MSN.Com this morning, you may have noticed their headlines included an article on how the tanning industry is beginning to fight back against those who are warning about the dangers of the coffin-like beds. Someone is feeling the heat, me thinks.

I started reading this article after one of my melanoma friends linked it to her Facebook. All of a sudden I saw my picture. It was only 6:30, I had not finished my 1st cup of coffee, and I was caught off guard. First thought, THAT'S MY FACE! Then, I guess the interview I did with Ms. Bridget in California was published?!

While I think you should read the article for yourself, I will touch on a few items Bridget discussed, and I will reply to a couple of comments left on the article by folks around the world. *For real, some people who submit these comments have far too much time on their hands.*

Warning: This is long but I have a lot to say.

First of all, just because I used a tanning bed does not mean that I am uneducated and lacking in the health insurance department. I am one of the lucky ones who has GREAT coverage, I work my booty off to pay my medical bills, and I have a college degree I earned. (Screw you, rude man.) I made the decision to tan while in my teens because I wanted to look beautiful. Yes, vanity is a horrible thing. I'm paying the price AND I am accepting the responsibility that goes along with it. I made the decision to tan. I was a minor, it wasn't my brightest decision, and I would never would have stepped foot in a tanning salon had the government regulated my time at the tanning salon in a way like they controlled my inability to buy alcohol or cigarettes. Remember, I began tanning at 14. I quit at 21.

Secondly, moderation is key? Seriously? I was never obsessive about tanning--whether from the sun or a tanning salon. I only did it during the summer (at the beach, at the pool) or before major events like prom and before vacations. (Hello, I needed a base tan!) So this comment irked me. "...tanning or spending time in the sun isn't likely to hurt you or have any lasting effects, your body can easily take it and repair itself. And a nice tan looks good and can actually be good for you, again in moderation. Now it does very from person to person so you as an individual need to do your homework and know when to stop." My body attempted to fix itself by catching the melanoma in multiple lymph nodes RIGHT BEFORE IT SPREAD TO MY ORGANS. (Thanks, lymph nodes! I greatly appreciate you!)  Know when to stop? Why bother starting?

There is no such thing as a healthy tan as one reader pointed out: "I used to tan every summer, in the natural sun, and unintentionally. Now my dermatologist gets to make his Mercedes payments with my office visits. It is almost guaranteed that each time I go there, he finds something new to be frozen or cut off, and about 25 percent of the time, I get a nice Mohs procedure. Tanning is the skin's way of saying "Stop damaging me, please!".

Or what about this comment regarding the need for moderation: "Moderation folks...... moderation! You shouldn't spend hours on end out in the sun without sun screen, just as you shouldn't spend an hour or so a week in the tanning salon. Enjoy the sun in the summer, and enjoy a few trips to the tanning salon in the winter. Take some f-ing responsibility for yourselves." I am taking f-ing responsibility for myself, dear. That's why I'm warning others about those damn death beds!

Although the tanning industry is obviously feeling some heat, Bridget writes, "Despite the bad press, the indoor tanning industry is holding steady. It showed slow but continued growth over the last three years, and revenues are expected to edge up to $5 billion by 2017, according to IBISWorld." This depresses me.  Hey, WHITE WOMEN, ages 18-21, we need to talk about this.

Let's discuss those comments criticizing me for allowing my doctor to perform 3 month CT scans of my organs, please. The little radiation from those scans which keep us positive that I'm healthy is so worth it. In regards to me blindly trusting my doctor, you obviously don't know me. I'm a control freak. I don't blindly trust anyone. (For the record, Dr. Mark Dickson at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center freakin' rocks. My own Mr. Wizard.)

On the government not needing to get involved: The government told me I could not smoke before I was 18 due to the risks of cancer. The government told me I couldn't drink until I was 21 due to numerous (valid) reasons. Adults, you have the right to make your own decisions. Your children do not. They are CHILDREN. They can't vote. They can't smoke. They can't drink. Why can they tan?

My favorite comments regarding this issue:

--"I do think tanning should come with some type of a 'warning label'. Beyond that, if an adult wants to do it, so be it." Key word: ADULTS.

--"Exposing yourself in a tanning bed for 10 minutes versus being outdoors for 10 minutes is very different. You are exposed to up to 8 times as much UV-A radiation in the beds, that's how people can get a tan in 10 minutes a couple times a week. I have NO issue with outlawing this to people under 18, as cigarettes and alcohol are. Teenage girls are some of the stupidest people on the planet!" Well, that's a bit harsh, but I know I made some POOR decisions while in my teens! It's all a part of growing up. 

--"That's the whole point of this. You can choose to tan, or smoke, or drink, but should have the ability to know what the consequences are. No one is going to take away your freedom of choice."

--"You can say people have the information if they choose to look for it but that is where you are wrong. Young impressionable people are given the idea that tanning is safe and healthy. That is a bold faced lie, especially from the tanning industry." 

--"Everyone knows what the risks are, I don't even know an under 18 year old that does not know the risk. However at 18 yrs or older it is a personal choice and honestly if done in moderation and it is done carefully I don't see the issue." That's a pretty bold statement. My bold statement in return is this: A LOT of people don't know what melanoma is, let alone how serious it is.
In a more positive comment, I love that Meghan Rothschild was also included in this article as she is a huge inspiration to me. The girl works hard to spread melanoma awareness! I completely agree with her, tanning beds are the cigarettes of our generation. Scary.

Not all of the comments under the article were negative. There was comment posted by Miss Becca that really stood out to me:

"All we want is for people to realize how nasty this cancer is, and that tanning beds are one of the big causes of it. Just because you want to be tan for prom or a dance, is it worth discovering you're dying when you're in college? Want to be tan for your wedding? Is it worth it when you're 30, and you have to tell your toddler that mommy has cancer? Is it worth watching the agony on the faces of your family as they watch you suffer through chemotherapy, surgeries, and the loss of hope?
Learn to love your skin color. Pale is beautiful..."

"If you refuse to listen to reason, then I guess we'll see you in the chemo suite."

I think that's a good line to end on, don't you?

*A big thank you to Bridget for writing this article AND for including me. You're a sweetheart!
 *A huge thank you to my friends who alerted me that this article was moved to MSN's homepage,
and a VERY BIG thank you to my friend Rayna for sharing it with all of the local news channels and newspaper. You were my agent today, girlfriend. Thanks! :-)


Lulu said...

Hi lovely,
Just discovered your blog as we both on Kelly's sponsor spotlight today and we have both had the dreaded melanoma!
I'm 28 and just had my 3rd one, never been a tanner or sun bed user but a pale complexion and the hot South African sun are not a old combination!
Fortunately my lymph node biopsies have always been clear, you poor girl having to have a full node clearance. I have some trouble with oedema in my forearm and that's just from the sentinel node biopsy!
Your blog is great:)
have a lovely weekend,
Lulu x

Melissa S. said...

I am using my dad's death to spread melanoma awareness. I used to tan and I.was stupid. My father did everything right and was diagnosed in.march with stage 4 melanoma, it was inside his intestines. People need to stop teens and children from potentially killing themselves. When they turn 18 or ideally 21 they can make that decision themselves. I will not let my dad's death be in vain. He lived for 5 months and thats it. Do not let my family's tragedy be yours. Thank you, Chelsea, for your honesty, strength, and.courage. You.have helped me much. Thank you.